I am an undergraduate working on a research project that is going to be published. My research adviser wasn't completely able to help with a certain portion of the research, so I contacted another professor (in a completely different department) at my university who was more than willing to help.

It seems that this other professor is going to be providing a huge amount of help. Should I offer inclusion in the paper? Should I bring this up with my main adviser and/or should I be upfront with the secondary adviser?

  • 1
    As far as your project is going to be published, I suggest that before you start any contact with that new professor, it is better to talk to your own professor and let him know that you want collaboration with that person. What if your own professor do not agree to collaborate with a new person in his research group?
    – enthu
    Jul 12, 2014 at 11:59
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    I think you misspelled "Must I offer inclusion in the paper?" And the answer is yes.
    – JeffE
    Jul 12, 2014 at 23:54
  • To me it seems you forgot in the first instance to discuss with your research team that you are going to approach someone outside your team for help (before you do so). Thats in general of utmost importance and may save you from all other issues in this respect. Apr 10, 2018 at 15:22

2 Answers 2


You should discuss the issue with both faculty members. I would bring it up with your primary advisor first...if only for linguistic reasons (i.e., the meaning of the word "primary").

When you say that the project is "going to be published", do you mean that it has already been written and accepted for publication? (If not, how do you know?) In general it is a good idea to discuss issues of coauthorship as early as possible. If you are already writing the paper it is on the later side, and if you have already submitted it then it is very late (but maybe not too late).

That's all I can think to say on general principles. It depends a lot on the field and what kind of work has been done.

tl;dr: As an undergraduate, you can't know the subtle expectations regarding coauthorship in your discipline. So err on the side of graciousness and inclusivity. The worst that can happen is that you get a "Aw, how cute: he thinks I want to publish with him" type of reaction. If so, you will definitely not have offended the faculty member and you'll probably engender a lesson about how publication culture works in your field: no problem there.

  • +1. But wouldn't it be better, however, if the OP could arrange a meeting with BOTH faculty members at once and discuss it there? Jul 12, 2014 at 8:57
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    Not necessarily. That could be more time-consuming and might or might not be desired by the faculty members themselves. If they do want to talk: they are at the same university, so they know how to get in touch with each other. Jul 12, 2014 at 17:01

A good starting point is to consider the points set up in the Vancouver protocol and augmented by, for example the ICMJE (International Committee of Medical Journal editors) stated as

  • Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work;


  • Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content;


  • Final approval of the version to be published;


  • Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

Note the AND in this list. It is well worth noting that these points indicate how things should be but some field-related traditions and, more commonly, personal opinions differ.

I think the above should make for a good basis for assessing whether or not anyone, the professor you have solicited included, should be on the paper. A gut feeling from your explanation says he should be asked. Not to discourage you, but authorship questions can be among the hardest questions you encounter in academia since authorship is such an important aspect for assessing excellence, success, or whatever you want to call it. This is also why the list quoted above has been assembled so that inflation in authorship can be combated. Please look at other posts under the tag to get more aspects of this issue.

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